Babka is traditional Eastern European Easter bread. This version is a dessert bread, and it’s great with coffee.
1 cup water
1/4 cup milk
2 tablespoons butter, cut into pieces
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 large egg yolk (reserve the white for brushing on top)
2 tablespoons sugar
3 cups Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
2 1/2 teaspoons instant yeast
2/3 cup sugar
2 1/2 tablespoons unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa
1/4 cup finely chopped walnuts or pecans
1 tablespoon Instant ClearJel (optional; it keeps filling from overflowing during baking)
2 tablespoons melted butter
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/3 cup confectioners’ sugar
1/4 cup Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
Place all of the dough ingredients into the pan of your bread machine in the order recommended by the manufacturer. Program the machine for dough or manual, and press Start. Check the dough’s consistency about 7 minutes after the kneading cycle begins, adding additional water or flour to form a soft, smooth ball of dough. While the dough is rising, combine all the filling ingredients in a small bowl, and then set them aside.
Shaping: Transfer the dough to a lightly floured surface, and roll it into a 10 x 14-inch rectangle. Brush it lightly with melted butter, and sprinkle the filling over the dough, leaving a 1-inch border along the edges. Starting at a short end, roll the dough up jelly-roll style. Pinch the ends closed, and tuck them under. Place the loaf, seam-side down, in a lightly greased 9 x 5-inch loaf pan. Brush the top of the dough with the reserved egg white. Combine the topping ingredients and sprinkle over the loaf in the pan. Cover with greased plastic wrap (or a proof cover). Let it rise for about 45 minutes; it won’t double in size, but should just barely crown over the rim of the pan.
Baking: Bake the loaf in a preheated 350°F oven for 30 to 40 minutes, or until its sides have pulled away slightly from the pan. Remove the loaf from the oven and, after about 5 minutes, remove it from the pan. Transfer it to a rack to cool completely.